Unlike other fragrance suppliers, International Flavors & Fragrances Inc. never had a master perfumer — until now. And he is Carlos Benaim.
This story first appeared in the January 18, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
During his more than 45-year career at IFF, he has created a string of landmark fragrances, including the original Polo green by Ralph Lauren, Euphoria and Eternity for Men by Calvin Klein, Herrera for Men by Carolina Herrera, White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor, Very Irresistible Givenchy by Givenchy, Prada Amber by Prada, Armani Code for Women by Giorgio Armani and both Flowerbomb and Spicebomb by Viktor & Rolf.
“Carlos’ creativity and mastery has been recognized in the industry for many years,” said Nicolas Mirzayantz, group president of fragrances at IFF. “In addition to his extraordinary success in the marketplace and his strong relationships with customers at all levels, Carlos has also coached, mentored and inspired generations of IFF perfumers. Carlos is truly a master perfumer in every way.”
Perhaps the greatest tribute came Monday evening, when Mirzayantz hosted a dinner in Manhattan for about 25 fragrance division employees, most of them fellow perfumers, to pay tribute to Benaim. He had expected to be roasted, but it turned out to be very friendly fire, indeed. Mirzayantz related a story that Pablo Picasso once told about a conversation he had with his mother, who said to him: ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the pope.’
“Instead he was a painter and he became Picasso,” Mirzayantz observed. “The same applies to Carlos. Instead he chose to be a perfumer and became Carlos Benaim.”
The IFF executive went on to praise Benaim for being the first to embrace innovation — even before it was a buzzword — for being quick to mentor the young. Nor did he dodge hopeless assignments. Mirzayantz recalled how once, when was young, he went after an account that everyone in authority told him was a suicide mission. Benaim joined him, doggedly fighting for a year, until they finally prevailed and won.
For much of its history, IFF has had chief perfumers, beginning with Ernest Shiftan, who founded the department, followed by the legendary Bernard Chant. But there have never been master perfumers among the rank and file. The company now defines them as “perfumers who have consistently challenged themselves and the company to take the art of perfumery to the next level; they are paradigm shifters who have developed trendsetting fragrances; and they are individuals who also have demonstrated leadership within the company.”